The first baby born following an IVF, or In Vitro Fertilisation, was in 1978. Since then this procedure has become a much-needed gift for many families that are struggling to conceive and couples at risk of having children with serious genetic diseases. In recent years, IVF has become a common procedure, also allowing women and couples to choose their baby’s gender.
In simple terms, IVF refers to fertilizing the egg outside of the body. As the embryo is outside of the body, different tests can be performed to check whether the embryo carries certain genes and genetic traits, before implanting it into a woman to start a pregnancy. This is commonly referred to as preimplantation genetic testing, PGT, or preimplantation genetic diagnosis, PGD.
Can IVF Treatment be used to select a baby girl or baby boy?
Testing for certain genes, PGT, following IVF, may reveal whether the embryo is a baby girl or a baby boy. This means that there is a risk – or an opportunity as some call it – of using IVF and PGT to select embryos for reasons, not related to health and hereditary conditions. Couples or moms-to-be can select which embryos they want to be implanted for other traits, such as gender. The matter of the so-called “designer babies” is ethical, not just medical, and remains controversial. In the US, the Centre for Disease Control provides a list of clinics, which offer PGT. Of these, most private clinics offer gender selection and information on their websites.
How is gender selected with IVF treatments?
What determines whether the embryo is a boy or a girl is the father’s X or Y chromosome. Women carry XX chromosomes and men carry XY chromosomes. The egg, which the mom contributes to the baby, carries a single one of these, i.e. an X. The sperm, which the dad contributes with, can carry either an X or a Y chromosome. A baby will combine the X from the mom, with the X or Y from the dad. A baby, that combines a mom’s X with a dad’s X, will carry XX and will, therefore, be a baby girl. A baby, who combines a mom’s X with the dad’s Y, will carry XY and will, therefore, be a baby boy. Gender can be selected by testing the embryo or pre-embryo (early after fertilization) or by sorting the spermatozoa and selecting only those who carry X or only those who carry Y and using only these for IVF. This method of sperm selection may not be approved in some countries and therefore, not available, which leaves only PGT as the available option.
What are the risks involved and how can IVF impact your body?
Very few clinics in the US, who offer PGT, actually communicate on their websites the risks involved with this type of testing. Such risks include loss of embryo, lower chance of successful pregnancy and misdiagnosis. Pregnancies, after IVF, are considered high-risk pregnancies. The risk includes high blood pressure, bleedings, growth retardations, spontaneous abortion, premature birth, genetic defects as well as multiple pregnancies (e.g. twins), which further increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Research indicates that the rate of birth defects, following IVF can be nearly two times higher than in naturally conceived babies.
What does it cost to select the baby’s gender with IVF and PGT?
The cost of PGT for gender selection varies, depending on the country and clinic. Generally speaking in the US, the cost for gender selection is around 4,000 USD for a certain number of embryos in a certain period of time, for example, 6-8 embryos in the course of 6-9 months. This cost is added to the cost of IVF, which can be around 20,000 USD per procedure for a limited number of tries. Some say that it can cost you 100,000 USD to get pregnant with a baby, who has the sex of your choice.
What are the best gender selection IVF clinics?
It is difficult to recommend any clinics since PGT for gender selection by choice, for social reasons, is relatively new, and there is little, if any, independent review of the clinics that offer these services. Therefore, it is advisable to refer to your OB for advice and the respective local authorities. Do your research, beyond customers’ reviews. Yet, you can find some of the best IVF clinics in the world here and top clinics in the United States here.
Pros and cons of gender selection with IVF and PGT
Gender selection with IVF and PGT has very high success rates in terms of the desired gender, 98% – 100%. However, the risks of complications for the mom and the baby are higher than in natural conception and naturally conceived babies. The procedure is expensive and there are no guarantees of a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby. There are important ethical considerations as well as religious. For example, while Jewish and Islamic religious viewpoints might be to consider pre-embryo gender selection or spermatozoa selection allowed, the Christian view is that gender selection, even for medical reasons, is forbidden. Thus, the choice is very individual and whatever you choose, make sure you feel calm so you can help your body carry a beautiful, healthy baby.